Supporting Mental Wellness Together: The Role of Occupational Therapists in Fostering Community Connection
Written by Marli Groenveld Occupational therapists (OTs) provide a unique perspective within the field of…
Scrambler Therapy, also called ‘Calmare’ (Italian for “to soothe or ease”) is a drug-free and non-invasive treatment for nerve and cancer-related pain.
Scrambler Therapy is a form of ‘neuromodulation’. Neuromodulation is a long word, but it is easier to understand when we break it down: neuro relates to ‘nerves or the nervous system’ and modulation relates to ‘changing’. Therefore, neuromodulation simply means “changing the way the nerves or nervous system behave”.
How does Scrambler Therapy change the way the nerves behave?
Scrambler Therapy changes the danger message sent by the nerves to the brain, which then results in the sensation of pain. Scrambler Therapy sends a message of “no danger” along the nerves to the brain, which results in a reduced or eradicated sensation of pain. The brain is responsible for deciding how to interpret different sensory messages from the body. The brain often interprets the sensory messages resulting from an injury (for example a papercut) as painful and so it creates pain. However, when people experience neuropathic pain or nerve pain, the brain can create pain even if there is no injury. Scrambler Therapy is helpful in this situation. Scrambler Therapy then sends a ‘no danger’ message to the brain to stop it from creating pain.
Does this mean the pain goes away?
Yes, in most cases, while Scrambler Therapy is applied, there is a ‘no danger’ message being sent to the brain. This means that the danger message is cancelled or zeroed by the ‘no danger’ message being sent by the Scrambler device, and consequently there is no or very minimal pain felt.
How is the message sent?
Through electrodes positioned on the skin. Any 90’s Sci-Fi film flashbacks yet? While it does look and sounds rather Sci-Fi, Scrambler Therapy is safe and free of side-effects like super-human strength or x-ray vision!
The electrodes are similar to those used for ECG’s, TENS or defibrillators. The occupational therapist will position them on specific points around the area that is painful (Note: not usually on or within the painful area). Then the occupational therapist will switch on the Scrambler device to send the ‘no danger’ message through the electrode lead, into the electrode and then through the painful area. The message is then sent to the brain and the pain in the area treated is zeroed.
Will the pain stay away forever? Highly unlikely! It is very important to understand that the pain usually returns after the Scrambler device is switched off. Clients should not expect their pain to stay away after the first session. However, gradual reduction in pain can be expected across the treatment cycle (that is, across the ten sessions spread across two weeks). A successful outcome would be a 50% reduction in average pain at the end of the 10 sessions. How long does this pain reduction last for? The length of time the pain reduction is maintained for varies from person to person. Usually, the pain reduction is maintained for between one to 3 months. When pain returns, it usually returns gradually. When pain becomes hard to manage again, clients can return for a ‘top-up’ treatment cycle. Most clients only need one to three sessions before their pain is reduced back to a more tolerable level or the level of pain they left with at the end of their first treatment cycle.
What if the pain does not change?
If a client’s average pain does not decrease noticeably after three sessions, the occupational therapist will often recommend stopping treatment.
Clients always have choice and control over their treatment, they can stop at any time. The occupational therapist will provide you with information and recommendations to help you make choices about your treatment.
What if the pain changes?
If the client experiences a noticeable decrease in average pain after three sessions, the treatment is continued for ten sessions or until the client experiences a full 48hr period of no pain.
While uncommon, it is possible for a client to experience 48hrs of no pain in less than ten sessions. There is no benefit for more sessions in this situation.
However, if a client has not achieved 48hrs of no pain but continues to experience gradual reduction in average pain, they may choose to continue treatment past the ten sessions.